E. coli, the green celebrity!

Escherichia coli or more commonly known as E. coli, according to me, happens to be the celebrity of the green world when it comes to biology in green chemistry.

(Image credit: Flickr user mrmin123)

These are the friendly bacteria that live in our guts and help digest our food. Although, some of its strain do cause problems to us. It’s time to give it some positive attention.

Scientists genetically engineer E. coli and greenify a chemical reaction.

Here are a few examples of how they did it:

1. Reduction of GO: Microbial reduction of graphene oxide by Escherichia coli: A green chemistry approach

2. Cleaner chemistry: Transplanting metabolic pathways into E. coli

3. Biofuels: Turning bacteria into butanol biofuel factories

4. Turning waste into fatty acids: Genetically Modified E. coli Bacteria Turn Waste Into Fat For Fuel!

5. Sugars into biofuels

The Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award Recipients included individuals/organizations who used E. coli. Here are some entries:

2012 Codexis, Inc.; Professor Yi Tang, University of California, Los Angeles LovD, an acyltransferase from E. coli engineered by directed evolution, now performs regioselective acylation in the sysnthesis of the drug simvastatin (summary)
2011 BioAmber, Inc. Genetically engineered E. coli strain licensed from the Department of Energy produces succinic acid from wheat-derived glucose on a commercial scale (summary)
2011 Genomatica Genetically engineered E. coli strain produces 1,4-butanediol by fermentation of readily available sugars (summary)
2011 BioAmber,Inc. Glucose is fermented on a commercial scale by a genetically engineered E. coli strain to make succinic acid, traditionally produced from petroleum (summary)
2011 Genomatica Readily available sugars fermented by a genetically engineered E. colistrain produce 1,4-butanediol, a large-volume chemical usually made from petroleum (summary)

The world outside our guts is far harsher for these bacteria, especially in our reaction flasks. So what are scientists doing about it? They are making hospitable environments for these little celebrities. Making safer solvents for them is one way.

But is E. coli losing its shine? Time will tell.

Read more on how yeast replaced E. coli: BioAmber phases out E.coli use

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